While network optimisation is an area that operators are keen to explore, there is an equally strong focus on monetising traffic that is already on the network.
This involves analysing traffic to find out what kind of content customers want access to and how they want to pay for it.
It’s therefore important to establish what type of traffic is present on the network – whether it is OTT, web traffic, peer to peer, voice traffic etc. Having granular visibility into applications makes it easier for operators to isolate different types of traffic on their networks. As Gordon Rawling of Oracle notes, there is a lot of interest in terms of bundling the analytics asset into the online charging environment to create a better understanding in real time of how customers use the network.
Traffic Detection Functions enable operators to optimise, personalise and monetise the traffic flowing across their network, giving them visibility into applications and allowing them to see how subscribers are actually using their network. Without TDF, they can only see bits and bytes; they don’t know what is causing issues such as congestion on the network, or what kinds of applications or content may be at risk as a result. If for example voice and video conferencing hit congestion then they suffer significantly, whereas other apps won’t be as badly affected.
By recognising network issues and identifying the applications or subscribers that are causing problems, operators can then isolate the issues to prevent them affecting other subscribers, allowing them to address the problems without any backlash. In addition, it’s much easier to create different pricing plans, marketing strategies and segmentations.
“We took a load of data from our mobile operators and used the same time of application intelligence to collect and segment information”, explains Jonathon Gordon of intelligent broadband solutions firm Allot Communications. “We were looking to segment the subscribers into different types of persona, or digital lifestyles.”
Gordon explains that segmentation according to ‘digital lifestyle’ makes it much easier to move customers from one package to another – if they identify with what the package offers, they will gravitate towards it and feel at home. Most operators still package data according to amount of bytes that can be used or the speed, but this is still a foreign concept to lots of subscribers. There are plenty of users who aren’t technically literate and only use the same few websites, plus maybe one or two other functions of their phone.
“For us within the industry, it’s hard to take a step back and see how other people use their phones”, he continues. “A lot of customers don’t want to make too many decisions too often. No operator has ever managed to get their billing right, and adding these additional layers of complexity can just make things too difficult for them to manage. It doesn’t add much value.”
Providing customers with so many options also involves investing in the requisite infrastructure to help them make the right decisions. However, Rawling notes that investment in this area can result in far higher revenue through targeted advertising
Rawling asserts that: “The concept of ‘encouraging’ network usage requires the right network in place to support it, but if operators can gain a solid understanding of what customers want to do, it is then easier to target them with campaigns.”
However, Gordon counters that: “Putting the infrastructure in place to help people make decisions would be futile if the complexity goes over the heads of subscribers. In theory personalisation is a great idea, but in practice it’s actually not too practical and the marginal costs will be higher in the long run.”
People tend to have an affinity for a digital lifestyle, notes Gordon, and if they can be guided in the right direction then that affinity will come to the fore very quickly. Offering packages in terms that they understand – gaming or social networking, for example – speaks to a much larger audience than describing offerings in terms of bytes and data speeds.
“The telecom industry has been talking about personalisation for a number of years now, but it hasn’t quite taken off”, comments Gordon. “This is because it’s too hard to do – there’s too much overhead and not enough for operators to gain if they try to address a ‘market of one’ if they have ten million subscribers.”
Personalisation is slowing down, with segmentation moving in to take its place – and the better the network visibility, the easier it is to define parameters than will attract subscribers towards different digital lifestyles.
Note: Interviewees are referred to exclusively by their last name after introduction – we apologise for any confusion!